John Constable’s powers of observation and thirst for meteorological knowledge propelled him to paint more natural-looking skies than most other English artists before or since. He believed that ‘painting is a science, and should be pursued as an enquiry into the laws of nature. Why then may not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but the experiments’? This experimental approach was certainly applied to the clouds and weather in Constable’s paintings, but it was not the case with all of his depictions of rainbows. Unlike clouds, rainbows are seen much less frequently and were therefore more mysterious and symbolic to the general public. This talk will examine the solar geometry of the rainbow in his summer scene Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831 and review Constable’s considerable understanding of contemporary rainbow theory.
Aspire is a partnership programme touring Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 across the UK. Aspire is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund.